Friendly Neighbourhood Spider Heroes

Last year was the first time Iris recommended a book to me (see previous post Unsurprisingly, she has not repeated this until recently. Why unsurprisingly? As much as she loves reading, she is also a tad lazy and prefers books that don’t tax her as much. The upshot of this is that she often chooses easily digested “chapter books” with less words and more graphics like the Geronimo Stilton series or less weighty language like Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragaon series. She therefore, hasn’t come across a book she’s felt is up to my scrutiny since The Pasta Detectives.

Until Milton the Mighty that is. She picked this book to buy from a book fair at school several months ago. This, I felt, was an unusual decision because she is inordinately afraid of insects of all kinds, not even wanting to read about them. She picked up this delightful phobia from kindergarten. I have since been trying to divest her of it.

In any case, it was perhaps because of this phobia that she has taken longer than usual to read it. She started and stopped when she first got it and was coerced to pick it up during the COVID 19 stay at home period by my covert strategic placement of the book on her TBR pile. Once she did, however, she blazed through it and then excitedly asked me to read it as she thought I would like it. I do indeed.

Milton is an unassuming false widow spider living thus far peacably with his house humans, Zoe and her dad. Then enters Felicity Thrubwell and her life mission to eradicate all spiders and other bugs, from the face of the earth. Through her machinations and bad journalism, Milton and his kind are painted as evil, dangerous arachnid delinquents waiting to suck the life from every human being. It’s up to Milton, his two BFFs, Ralph, a tegenaria, and Audrey, a daddy-long-legs to try and enlist Zoe to help clear his name.

Now, I actually love spiders. I don’t really know why but I just feel they’ve always had a bad rap. After all, they help to eat the annoying and far more dangerous bugs like mosquitos, flies and fungus gnats. They don’t run around like maniacs or fly right into your face like disgusting cockroaches. And they have eight legs, which in Chinese culture is a lucky number. This is particularly remarkable given my mum’s long-standing, vociferous aversion for them.

Emma Read writes in an engaging, funny tone and her characters are likeable and distinct. Bolstered by Alex Griffiths’ illustrations, Milton and his pals are downright cuddly. If my bug-fearing daughter can enjoy this book, anyone would.

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